The recent resurgence of American watchmaking has seen a ton of interesting brands come to market. Among them, one of the world’s last independent, family-owned luxury goods manufacturers. From the city where really tough residents are grown – in a blue-collar, steel-working sense. Nowadays, Pittsburgh has flexed their resiliency and repurposed themselves in the wake of an economic downturn. They are thriving as a result.
Case in point, Pittsburgh’s own watch luxury brand, Kobold – having evolved from their humble beginnings; an idea that began, in 1998, during an entrepreneurship class at the Carnegie Mellon University, a private research university in Pittsburgh, to sitting at the forefront of American watchmaking. Kobold’s founder, Michael Kobold, and his brand, Kobold, continue to influence the U.S. watch industry.
Born at the forefront of the ‘E-Commerce Craze’, being the first watch brand to sell its products directly over the Internet – gave launch to a number of great timepieces. Their watches are high quality, durable timepieces, however, that’s been done before. What makes them different? Their commitment to their roots.
Each U.S. made Kobold watch case carries a unique serial number and is considered a work of art. The Kobold style is heavily influenced by the teachings of Bauhaus, the German art school and design movement that combined crafts and the fine arts, of the early 20th Century. This idea helped launch their mission and caught the eye of many – including your favorite Italian-American Mafia crime boss.
James Gandolfini, was an American actor, involved in multiple film roles – best known for his role as Tony Soprano, from 1999–2007, in HBO’s television series ‘The Sopranos’. His portrayal of Tony Soprano has been described as one of the greatest and most influential performances in television history, often seen wearing a yellow gold Rolex Day-Date with champagne dial throughout much of the entire show.
A fan of luxury watches, and specifically Kobold – Gandolfini approached the company, in 2003, to inquire about a watch. A few days later, Michael Kobold hand delivered a Kobold to James directly. From that, a lasting friendship was made. As well, Gandolfini developed a huge admiration for the brand, over the years. Gandolfini was so hooked on Kobold watches, he bought 450 of them, a $2 million USD purchase, including 40 made of 18k gold (one of which is currently listed on eBay at $49,995 USD – as of this writing), for the cast and crew of ‘The Sopranos’, presented as a farewell gift during the filming of the show’s final season which aired its finale on June 10th, 2007.
The watch presented was a Kobold Soarway Diver; a solid underwater-watch, rated to 300 meters, it featured a Swiss ETA 2892 automatic movement, a uni-directional rotating bezel, and quickset date window – complete with a letter of authenticity signed by Tony Soprano, himself.
In the words of Tony, “Those who want respect, give respect.” (S2. Ep12) As we all know, getting people to respect you isn’t just about constantly reminding them of your authority, it’s about being the kind of person who’s worthy of being looked up to. Gandolfini passed away, suddenly, in 2013, however, his kindness he showed that day – earns our respect. A beautiful gesture from the Crime Boss.